Snack Ideas for a Diabetic Diet

How to Snack Smart and Stick to Your Meal Plan

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Diabetic meal plans are not one-size-fits-all. Some diabetics will have snacks built into their meal plans on the recommendation of their medical team or based on their personal food preferences. But even if snacks are not a part of your meal plan, there are still times that you'll need to make smart snacking decisions.

There are essentially three categories of diabetic snacks:

  • Unscheduled between-meal snacks
  • Planned snacks that are a part of your meal plan
  • Emergency hypoglycemia snacks

Unscheduled Between Meal Snacks

If you find that you're getting hungry regularly between meals, talk to your doctor or dietitian. You may need to have adjustments made to your meal plan. But for occasional between-meal hunger attacks, reach for a low-calorie, non-carbohydrate based snack.

These examples will help to curb your hunger without completely blowing your meal plan or spiking your blood sugar:

  • Free foods: If it's cold, try a not cup of tea or low-sodium chicken broth. If it's hot, try a cup of sugar-free jello or seeing if a glass of water or a cold sugar-free beverage will hold you over until your next meal.
  • Under 100 calories: 2 fat-free mozzarella cheese sticks, 3 ounces low sodium turkey breast rolled into snacking sticks, or one hard-boiled egg sprinkled with pepper
  • Under 200 calories: 1/4 cup unsalted nuts, or celery with 2 tablespoons of low-fat peanut butter

Planned Snacks

Your meal plan will tell you how many servings of carbohydrates, protein or fats you should have for your snack. The best meal plan snacks usually combine lean proteins or healthy fats with 15 to 30 grams of high-fiber carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. This combination of nutrients slows digestion and causes a more gradual rise and fall in blood sugar.

Snacks containing one carbohydrate (about 15 grams of carbohydrate):

  • 1 medium apple with 1 tablespoon of low-fat peanut butter
  • 18 small pretzel twists with 1 ounce of low-fat cheese
  • 3 cups of low-fat microwave popcorn and 6 to 10 unsalted nuts
  • 1 cup baby carrots, red pepper slices, or raw green beans with 1/4 cup of hummus
  • 6-ounce carton of light yogurt
  • 6 low-fat, whole wheat crackers with 1 ounce of low-fat cheese
  • 1 graham cracker with 1 tablespoon of low-fat peanut butter

Snacks containing two carbohydrates (about 30 grams of carbohydrate):

  • 1 cup of high-fiber whole-wheat cereal with 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 turkey and low-fat cheese sandwich with one serving of fresh fruit
  • 1 low-fat but high-fiber granola or cereal bar
  • 6-ounce carton of light yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup of whole-grain cereal
  • 1/2 cup of sugar-free pudding and 2 vanilla wafers
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit and 6 to 10 unsalted nuts
  • 8 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk

Emergency Snacks

You should always have carbohydrate-based emergency snacks on hand for when you feel oncoming symptoms of hypoglycemia. Unlike meal plan snacks, emergency snacks should be free of protein and fat to allow the quickest absorption of glucose. An initial emergency dose of glucose to treat hypoglycemia is usually 10 to 15 grams. That can be found in:

  • Four lifesavers candies
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 can of regular soda or juice

Remember, the key here is not feeling full but getting your blood sugar back to normal.

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Article Sources

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  1. Gray A, Threlkeld RJ. Nutritional Recommendations for Individuals with Diabetes. South Dartmouth, Massachusetts: Endotext [Internet]; October 13, 2019.

  2. Evert AB. Treatment of mild hypoglycemia. Diabetes Spectr. 2014;27(1):58-62. doi:10.2337/diaspect.27.1.58